Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Overnight at Elizabeth Lake

I joined a loon and mountain goat survey trip to Elizabeth Lake in Glacier National Park. 

From the Chief Mountain Trailhead, we followed the Belly River Trail 9.7 to Elizabeth Lake Campground.
Along the Belly River.
Further up along the Belly River.
I think this is spotted saxifrage.
Cooling off at Dawn Mist Falls.
After setting up our campsite at the foot of the lake, we started up the trail towards Helen Lake.  We didn’t get far.  A bear other campers warned us about was in the path.  It didn’t seem concerned about us, just kept right on foraging.  We started retreating, hoping it would move on.  It had other ideas. 

As we were backing up, we had an even more exciting wildlife encounter— a FROG hopped by.  WOW!  We all immediately pulled out our cameras and knelt down around the jewel of an amphibian, forgetting all about the bear.   There are only a few types of amphibians in Glacier, and we wanted to submit our observation to iNaturalist.
This is a photo of the cool frog, which leapt away quickly but you might see in the bottom right hand corner if you squint.  It would have been irresponsible to take a photo of the bear. 
It was decided to abandon the plan for the survey at Helen in favor of giving the bear space.  It was a tough call since no one else has surveyed loons at Helen this season. 
Spotting distant mountain goats and bighorn sheep at Elizabeth Lake.
As we were surveying, we watched as the bear made its way down the trail towards Helen Lake.  I’m glad that bear got to have a peaceful evening to do it’s bear-things without being harassed by hikers.

Loons called back and forth during the night and early morning.  How many of them were there?  Are they nesting?  We have no idea.

The next morning, we ate breakfast and watched shadows creeping across the mountains. 

One more black bear and plenty of tracks on the return trip to the trailhead.

More information

Date hiked: June 6 - 7

Belly River Trail details

Glacier National Park's Citizen Science Program

Glacier National Park Backcountry Camping permits